Opera Director, Artistic Director, Against the Grain Theatre
Stage Director Joel Ivany represents “the future of opera” in Canada. This season, he returns to Minnesota Opera to direct his new “Powerful, deeply moving” production of Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking, which played at the inaugural Vancouver Opera Festival, and also makes his Opera Columbus debut in a new co-production (Opera Columbus Against the Grain Theatre, Banff Centre) of Gluck/Berlioz’ Orphée. His career began when he became a finalist and prize winner in the 6th European Opera Directing prize for his concept presentation of Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi alongside Canadian designers Camellia Koo and Jason Hand. He is currently the Artistic Director for Opera at Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. He is responsible for leading an internationally respected program by programming relevant content, providing world-class training and fostering professional development. He is changing the way opera is produced and presented in Canada and beyond.
He is perhaps best known as “Canadian opera’s enfant not-so-terrible” through his company, Against the Grain Theatre (AtG). As its founder and artistic director, Ivany is leading the chamber opera movement by producing industry-changing productions. They have produced La bohème in a bar, Pelléas et Mélisande in an outdoor courtyard, Figaro’s Wedding in an actual wedding venue, a staged/choreographed Handel’s Messiah (Dora Mavor Moore winner), Britten’s The Turn of the Screw in a converted attic and most recently they broke the rules by successfully mashing up Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin with Messiaen’s Harawi in a Queen West art gallery. These productions caused NOW Magazine to say, “Against the Grain Theatre proves itself one of the city’s most inventive young companies.” AtG has renewed opera by presenting newly translated and adapted librettos by Joel Ivany using “his characteristic bawdy wit.”
He has written four original librettos (adaptations of La bohème, Don Giovanni, Le Nozze di Figaro and Così fan tutte) which have received multiple award nominations and wins. His production of Figaro’s Wedding garnered 7 Dora Mavor Moore nominations, including Outstanding Production and Outstanding Direction and a win for Outstanding New Opera, while #UncleJohn received 3 Dora Mavor Moore nominations, including Outstanding New Opera. As a stage director, his critically-acclaimed past productions include Carmen for the Canadian Opera Company and Vancouver Opera, Kopernikus at Banff Centre, Hans Krasá’s Brundibár for the Canadian Children’s Opera Company, Dead Man Walking at Vancouver Opera, The Seven Deadly Sins for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Les Contes D’hoffmann with Edmonton Opera and Macbeth for Minnesota Opera. His work in contemporary opera includes directing the World Premiere of Gavin Bryars’ chamber opera Marilyn Forever with the Aventa Ensemble at the Adelaide Festival (Australia). His short film, The King’s Mask, was made for the Norwegian National Opera (Oslo, Norway).
He has worked with Washington National Opera, Bard Summerscape, Deutsche Oper Berlin, The Wexford Festival, Opera Holland Park, The Norwegian National Opera and Lyric Opera Studio Weimar. He is a recipient of numerous scholarships and grants through such funding bodies as the Canada Arts Council, The Bras Family Foundation, Theatre Ontario, and holds a music degree from Western University and an artist diploma in Opera Directing from the University of Toronto.